Accessing the COVID-19 vaccine in Orange County

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Vaccines prepared and ready to administer.

By George Pardon

When Orange County Health Officer Dr. Clayton Chau announced on January 12 that all Orange County residents ages 65 and older are now eligible to be vaccinated against COVID-19, it got my attention. Prior to this announcement, you needed to be 75 years or older, in a nursing home, or in one of the designated high risk working environments to qualify for the vaccination at this time. After some research, I found that unless your employer, your health plan, or a group you are in is coordinating your access to the COVID-19 vaccine then, for now, registering through Othena.com is your option.

I am 69 and needed to pursue the Othena.com path. While I used my computer and used the Othena website, you can also use the Othena app on a smart phone. What became evident quickly is that getting access to the vaccine for many of our seniors may be a real challenge even though they are eligible. I was able to get an appointment and received the first dose of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine on Sunday morning at the Super Vaccination site located in the Disneyland Toy Story parking lot.

If you need an appointment either now or when you become eligible, the following is the process for Orange County residents. When you log on to Othena.com for the first time, you click on First Time User. The first question you will be asked is if you are an Orange County resident. You need to be an OC resident to proceed. You will then be asked if you are 65 or older. If you say yes, the screen will say you are eligible and take you to a questionnaire and the registration process. If you say no, it will take you to a screen asking if you are in one of the other eligible groups. If you say no, you can’t proceed. If you say yes, you will proceed through the registration process. To complete the registration process, you will need an email address and create a password.

When you complete your registration, it is unlikely that there will be any appointments available. You will be informed that as vaccines become more plentiful, additional appointments will become available and eligibility will open up to other groups. Your Othena account (email and password) will enable you to schedule a vaccination when they become available. The next time you sign in, you will use your email and password to sign in under Patient Login. In addition to informing you that additional appointments will become available, they will also recommend that you bookmark the page and check back daily. This is where persistence comes into play. While it says to check back daily, my experience was that there were never any appointments when checking daily. On Thursday, I started checking constantly starting in the late afternoon. By early evening, to my surprise, an appointment screen came up. When you see that screen, you have to act fast. My experience was that Saturday and Sunday were available. Select a date and location.

At this time, the only location for Orange County is Disneyland. Just because a time is listed, by the time you click on it, it may be gone. I jumped to the second day and was successful. By the time my wife logged on, there were no appointments left. I can’t overemphasize persistence in checking regularly.

If you are able to get an appointment, a screen will come up showing that you have an appointment booked. You should print this out and take it with you. The entrance to the vaccination site is at the corner of Katella and Clementine which is east of Harbor Blvd. There will be a lot of walking and standing. I had the first appointment time of the day so it moved along quickly. Some folks that had later appointments were there two to three hours especially if you arrive before your appointment. They won’t start your appointment time before they finish all the appointments before yours. They schedule a lot of people for each time slot. I was fortunate to get an 8am appointment and even though there were about 50 or 60 people in front of me with appointments at 8, I got my shot by 8:30. They require you to wait at the site for 15 minutes after your shot so I was headed back to my car by 8:45.

It is my understanding that Leisure World is setting up a program to coordinate the vaccination of the residents that live there. If you know a senior that wants the vaccine but doesn’t know how to navigate the process, this is a great opportunity to assist them.
George Pardon
Cypress Resident